Fringe Summer Rewatch: #220 "Brown Betty" ~ Fringe Television - Fan Site for the FOX TV Series Fringe

Fringe Summer Rewatch: #220 "Brown Betty"

      Email Post       8/26/2011 12:00:00 PM      

Join us for our Fringe Summer re-watch, where we review every episode of Fringe during the summer hiatus. Comments are welcome as we dig into the connections made over three seasons.

(Oops! Somehow episodes 219 and 220 got out of order in our queue. Sorry about that.)

This Rewatch brought to you by fringeobsessed & SamSpade.

The Setup

Olivia is asked to watch her niece, Ella while Rachel is in Chicago. Olivia brings Ella to the lab for Astrid to look after her while she goes looking for Peter Bishop. At the lab, Walter has already smoked something which he calls “Brown Betty” and decides (with Astrid and Ella’s instance) to tell Ella a story with a mixture of a musical. It begins with a Detective Dunham that is closing her doors only to get one last case in, from Rachel. Rachel tells Detective Dunham that her fiance, Peter Bishop, has gone missing and she’s in love with him. Detective Dunham tells her, "You know, most times when someone comes in here worried that their sweetheart's gone missing, or the time they find out what I usually find out, they wind up wishing he really were dead." Rahcel insists that Peter is not like that and Detective Dunham accepts the case.

I remember the first time this episode aired. Many fans were complaining on the live chat right afterwards that 'Brown Betty' was weird, bad, a WTF episode. But you know, my mouth was still hanging open afterwards in awe. 'Brown Betty' is a multi-faceted gem. Even after that initial viewing I sensed there was a TON of foreshadowing of future episodes. If you haven't rewatched 'Brown Betty' since it first aired I encourage you to get out your DVD's or find it on your TIVO and watch it again post-Season 3. The foreshadowing will stick out like a sore thumb and some things will make you smile. Take a look at our "Foreshadowing" section further down in this post.

New Tech Juxtapositioned Next To Old Tech

One of the things that's fun about this episode is the coexistence of old and new tech that is so trademark of Fringe. I can't remember who commented on it in an older interview, but I'm pretty sure it was one of the executive producers saying how he loved it too. There's the old
rotary phones complete with their tinny rings on Nina and Astrid's desks, next to their state-of-the-art computers! And Detective Dunham has a cell phone? IN the 1940's? And Nina was talking to what looked like William Bell's head on a screen that looked alot like Walter's that he showed the Red Verse to government heads in the 1980's. Not as much fun a Donlad the Observer hitman's wireless, portable dot matrix printer, but close.

One Of The Must-See Episodes Of Season 2

There is a website right now that has listed the 5 must see episodes to catch-up new Fringe viewers. If I had to list must-see Season 2 episodes, 'Brown Betty' would be the third, after 'Momentum Deferred,' and 'Peter.' Why? There's so much information in 'Brown Betty,' it almost makes your head hurt.

I promised I'd report any significant colors in the episodes as we go along in our scheduled rewatch. All I could find in this one are 2 examples:1)Walter's labelmaker had a blue and a red button, and 2)poor Gene the cow in the fictional Harvard lab has red, blue, and yellow spots all
over her fur. On first viewing it made me think of the mat that comes with the game Twister, but seeing this Gene post-Season 3 reminds me of all the red/blue/yellow references that were thrown at us in Season 3.

The Watchers
If you haven't already read Count Screwloose's recent piece in this blog titled "The Sign Of The Four, Why You Can't See Peter Bishop, And The Last Great Storm Revealed," click here, you should. In it he talks about comic book characters called "The Watchers" who are "fated to ever observe the machinations of humanity and the universe, but forever forbidden to meddle in our affairs (much like The Observers, too, that rule seemed to become more and more elastic as time went by).” In “Brown Betty” these “Watchers” are very much engaged in battle with Peter and Olivia, and it's an interesting change from their usual passivity.

The Singing
If you recall, “Brown Betty” originally aired during a FOX network theme week. All the weekly shows had singing in them that week in homage to FOX's GLEE, and “Brown Betty” was no exception.

Lance Reddick did a lovely job on the first few lines of Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys by Traffic, with piano accompaniment to boot. Jasika Nicole was outstanding with her piece to impress Nurse Mikita(they might as well have changed the namepin to Nurse Wrachet, as she looked identical to that character from “One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.”) And Anna Torv was very touching singing Stevie Wonder's For Once In My Life to a dying Peter Bishop.

And let's not forget that surprising bit of harmony from Dr. Walter Bishop's 'Singing Corpses,' that felt straight out of a Monty Python episode. (Now if that is foreshadowing of Season 4, that is spooky!)

Walter's Book Of Creations
In this episode Walter Bishop tells us he is responsible for making all things wonderful in the world.

Besides the hug, rainbows, teddy bears, matching pajamas, and the beacon from episode 104, 'The Arrival,' there is a drawing of what looks like a white horse. If you've been reading the book young Olivia is reading in “Subject 13,” Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin, you might be wondering as I am if that horse is Peter's Lake's horse, Athansor.

Unanswered Questions That Arise In 'Brown Betty”

Walter says “ Oh no, no, no. I couldn’t possibly look after anyone else. I’m well into Phase One.” What is Phase One? How many phases are there?(The only other reference to phrases is in '6955 mHz' when FauxLiv types that they have found all the parts of the machine, and she's told to start Phase 2.)

The observers intervene a lot in the story that Walter tells Ella. He refers to them as “The Watchers.” Why do they intervene so much in the story? Is it because it’s from Walters POV and they saved him and Peter and he’s had more contact with them? “Don’t stick your heart out where it doesn’t belong,” Mr. Gemini tells Detective Dunham. Is this foreshadowing for Season four?

Why dows Bell refer to Peter as “the boy?” (Remember the Observers have called Peter “The Boy' a few times as well as Walter in “The Transformation.”)

A hundred and forty-seven pins represent the number of children hurt by Walter Bishop. Where did they come up with that number? Does that include just the Cortexiphan subjects from both trials? And which Walter Bishop are we talking about? Depending on the timeline here we could be talking about Walternate Bishop, because we have no idea how many people he's experimented on with the amber he made or the cortexiphan Brandonate found in our Olivia's brain.

In the story, Peter believes The Watchers work for Nina Sharp. Is this because Walter believes the same thing? In the episode Peter, we see that Nina and Carla leave Reiden Lake after Nina’s arm gets messed up in the portal. Walter and Peter slip through the ice and September saves them. September then tells Walter that Nina is getting her arm fixed and that the boy is important, he must live. In Walter’s mind, does he think that Nina sent the Observers there to look after him and Peter coming through the portal?

If fictional Peter Bishop stole Walter Bishop's heart how come his thumbprint opened the high tech case?

Examples Of Foreshadowing In “Brown Betty”

Fictional Rachel comes to Detective Dunham and tells her, “My boyfriend has gone missing” which is foresahdowing of Peter disappearing at the end of episode 322.

Walter tells Ella “As with all good stories, things aren't always what they seem,” which pretty sums up the entire Fringe series and reminds us of the issue of perception in episode 212, 'Johari Window.'

Walter tells Ella, “She took this case to see if true love really existed.” Is this foreshadowing of Season 4?

In fictional Rachel's apartment there is a poster that says “The Glass Man.” Is this foreshadowing of Peter?

When Walter describes that fictional Rachel has been killed, Ella tells him, “She can't die. She's in love. True love.” I believe this is foreshadowing of Olivia dying in the future in episode 322, 'The Day We Died.'

In this episode fictional Rachel is murdered and discovered to have a different identity. Is this foreshadowing of Olivia's sister Rachel?

There is a Dunham/Broyles confrontation in this episode. Will this happen in Season 4?

Olivia in the floating casket is similar to Olivia’s death scene and her in the floating casket in episode 322, 'The Day We Died.'

Walter says in the story to Ella, “Kind of. Slightly less handsome than your Uncle Walter."
Is this foreshadowing of his alternate self, ie. Walternate?

Astrid says to Olivia, "You're always looking for something that doesn't even exist."
Could this be foreshadowing of Peter no longer existing in Season 4? "

William Bell in the screen says, "By utilizing the heart's power we'll be able to create a stable door between universes.” In 'The Day We Died', episode 322, we see the Bridge that Peter created.

The singing corpses sing the 1970's hit “The Candy Man.” We meet, on the other side, the killer known as The Candy Man in 'The Abducted,' episode 307.

The glass heart in the story is 'a power source.' This is foreshadowing of Walternate mentioning a power source as part of the Wave Sink device AKA the machine that is discussed in 'Reciprocity.' We know from Season 3 that Peter combined with the machine is also a power source.

Fictional Astrid speaks about William Bell, “….here is the interesting part. In the past few years, no one has seen him. No press conferences, no public appearances. It's like he just disappeared off the face of the Earth.” Then Detective Dunham replies with, “Okay, so what's that got to do with Peter Bishop?” and Fictional Astrid responds, “I don't know. But that's weird, right?” Again another clue about Peter vanishing!

Peter talks about how Fictional Walter steals children’s dreams and replaces them with nightmares. We see something similar in episode 205, ' Dream Logic' (but with adults, not children).

Fictional Peter tells Olivia, “It must be nice to know who you are, to know your place in the world. I thought I knew who I was but I was wrong.” I think that's all foreshadowing of Season 4.

Ella wants a happy ending to the story and retells it her own way to Walter. We see in episode 322, ' The Day We Died,' Ella saying there are no happy endings anymore. Also, young Ella tells Olivia, “His ending was bad, but I fixed it for him.” If Ella Dunham is a First Person, will she have any influence on how this series ends?

Which Walter Bishop?
When I started thinking about what to write here a particular bit of dialogue bothered me. Dr. Walter Bishop is describing how the glass heart came to be to Detective Dunham. He says, “I had a bad heart, so I invented the glass heart.” As far as we know our Walter has no history of a bad heart, unless you mean his personality before Belly removed parts of his brain. Walternate may not have had a bad heart before our Walter snatched his Peter away. It has often been said that the 2 Walters are 2 sides of the same coin. So truly, which Walter Bishop is the one that had a bad heart and has a lot of good left in them? At the moment I'm leaning toward our Walter, because he also told Olivia he and Peter had the same last name but he wasn't his son.

Other Interesting Stuff
There was one mystery she couldn't solve, how to men a broken heart, as Olivia dumps a picture of her real life ex into a box. That's sad. Nice of Anna to be a good sport about that.

Fictional Olivia (to fictional Peter), “I take it you don't live here.”
Peter to Olivia: “No, but nobody else does either.” Hmm. Do they meet (again) in that yellow universe?

The third use of Charlie Francis's line to Olivia, “You're gonna be fine.” The first was when Liv told Peter that story in episode 205, 'Dream Logic.' The second was when she jumbled the phrase at Sam Weiss's request at the end of that episode.

Walter's drawing of the Beacon reminds us of the same item in episode 104, 'The Arrival.' Above it in the book it says Iridium capsule which we learn more about in episode 322.

It's too late, Walter. There are things you can't undo.” Pretty much what Walter told Peter when Peter told him to go back in time and not send the machine back, and Walter said it had been done and he couldn't undo it.

Fictional Olivia makes an awfully good shot and hits one of the Watchers. Is Olympic sharpshooter, FauxLivia-in-Liv's-head responsible for that?

You ever play that game Operation?” The third reference to the popular Milton-Bradley game.
The first was in 212 “Johira Window,” then earlier in “Brown Betty” when Ella complained that Walter was killing the guy trying to take out his heart.

Ella's ending ends with “And together they made good and lived happily ever after."
Will the Fringe series have a happy ending?

If Peter Bishop Never Existed
If Walter told Ella a story, it would in fact be different since this one is about Peter. Who would Rachel have said was her boyfriend and had gone missing? Technically though, there should be no story since Olivia is out looking for Peter instead of spending the day with her niece, Ella.

Who would have rescued Olivia from the floating casket in the story? Simply put, this is another episode where without Peter's intervention it is quite likely she would have died.

Walter probably still would have smoked his Brown Betty marijuana hybrid, but not to get his mind off his missing 'son.'

During the telling of his tale, Walter stops and tells young Ella, “I'm not sure you want me to go on.” Ella replies,”Does it have to do with Peter?” to which Walter answers, “It just might.” If there was no Peter, there may not have been any wonderful tale of the adventures of Detective Dunham.


cortexifan said...

part 1

Okay, I’m going to get it out of the way first thing.
This episode got a lot of bad rep but it was one of my favorites in S2. I know they somehow joined Glee for a musical week or something, but looking at the others from that week, Fringe did a really good job as to not overpower with the musical part. John, Anna and Jasika gave an outstanding singing performance. So there, I said it, and I’m sticking with it.

-The word “heart” was said 26 times. In addition to that it was said twice as “sweetheart”.
-Ha, there’s Walter on drugs and then there’s Walter on drugs. Need I say more? :)
-I love how he’s got his Red Vines mixed in with the acids.
-Rachel is in Chicago. Is she planning her move?
-Olivia’s office looks just like the office in the back of the lab. :)
-Walter singing off key was funny.
-Operation game, again.
-“Wait a minute. My mom doesn’t love Peter.” Even Ella knows that Peter belongs with Olivia.
-Peter opens the case that holds the heart by finger print. Sort of like the machine can only be operated by him.
-Ella is holding an album cover. It bugs me since the first time I’ve seen this episode because I can’t figure out if this means anything. It does have a chess board on it and sort of reminds me of the dream sequence in the Pilot where Olivia meets John.
-The conversations Olivia has with Nina resemble conversations that they had throughout the series.
Nina: “It’s me. There has been a development.” Was Nina calling the Watcher? It reminded me of the times where the Observer is on the phone saying something like: “It is happening.” (3.18 Bloodline)
-Nina calls the Observers “Watchers”. I had to think of what Count Screwloose wrote about FF and all that stuff.
-The poster on the wall in Rachel’s apartment always sticks out to me. “The Glass Man” but I don’t know if it means anything.
-Rachel’s heart cavity reminds me of the heart cavity in 3.09 Marionette.
-Broyles: “… one thing we both know, Dunham… death seems to follow you around.” Why did he say that? That reminded me of the conversation Broyles had with Astrid in 3.19 LSD where Broyles said death followed him and it was him.
-I was kind of disappointed that there weren’t more bloopers on the DVD from this.
-Favorite line: Walter: “… first she needed to rehire her assistant, Esther Figglesworth.” Astrid’s reaction was priceless. Walter called her that in 3.09 Marionette as well.
-When Astrid applies for the job, it’s the same nurse from 2.22 Over There Part 2 where Olivia is looking for Walter in the hospital.
-The laser Olivia was injured with looks similar to the tool Newton used to remove Fauxlivia’s tattoo in 3.02 The Box.
-Olivia: “Want someone to keep me warm when I’m cold, feed me when I’m hungry and on occasion take me dancing.” Peter did all that in the episode [although if you offer her food, she doesn’t eat it, except “toast” :)].
- Nina’s parking spot is No. 47.
-Olivia broke a tail light on Nina, car. Fauxlivia shot out a tail light on Newton’s car in 3.02 DSDOES.

cortexifan said...

part 2

-I like how they mixed old mechanics and modern technology together. Kind of what it’s like over there: the blimps, those old bikes, the baby buggies and then you have flights to the moon, the cuffs just to name a few.
-Astrid: “Be careful Olivia.” Olivia: “Ok, mom.” She teases Lincoln with “ok mom” as well in 3.05 Amber 31422 when he asks her if she’s ready for the tests.
-Walter said the heart is a power source. It resembles the part Fauxlivia stole in 3.08 Entrada.
-Bell: “With the heart’s power we will be able to built a stable door between universes.” The bridge room Peter created represents that.
-September’s name in BB was Mr. Gemini: more than one!
-Drowning in a pine coffin. I’ve heard some say it was a foreshadowing to the way Olivia was buried in 3.22 The Day We Died, her coffin floating on water. I’m glad that that time line is no more. Now we just have to wait for Mr. X to do his job. Uh, I’m being sarcastic :)
-147 pins, representing 147 kids whose dreams got stolen – 47 again. Stealing dreams also in 2.05 Dream Logic and Peter doesn’t remember dreams.
-The map resembles the soft spot map from 1.20 TIMTOOE and 3.14 6B.
-Coffee, 1 sugar, no cream. Peter, how can you forget? In 3.12 Concentrate And Ask Again he brought her one with milk.
-“Oh hell.” Andre Hughes says it in 2.02 NODO and later Brandonate uses it in 3.05 Amber 31422 while Olivia is in the tank, crossing over for the first time.
-Sure the Watchers/Observers don’t get involved. Here they even fight.
-Peter: “You’re gonna be fine.” That’s Charlie’s phrase to Olivia.
-“For once in my life, I have someone who needs me. Someone I've needed so long, for once unafraid I can go where life leads me, and somehow I know I'll be strong. For once in my life, I won't let sorrow hurt me... not like it's hurt me before. For once I have something I know won't desert me. I'm not alone anymore.” The lyrics to the song reminded me of her new found confidence in 3.19 LSD where she says, she’s not afraid to move forward anymore, and the confidence she has as she approaches to turn the machine off in 3.21 The Last Sam Weiss.
-Ella and Walter. They remembered this time in 3.22 The Day We Died.
-Was September talking to December on the phone at the end of the episode?

If Peter never existed in this episode…
-In a sense it wouldn’t have changed anything because this was just in Walter’s mind, right?
-Would Walter still have the heart, would he still be stealing dream from children?
-Olivia would have drowned.

Dave Thompson said...

Just watched it again last night...

The foreshadowing IS awesome (how "Peter Bishop is missing") and I believe at the end of the series, we will realize this episode would not contradict anything that happens later...

That means watch out for Nina...

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